Don Page?s plan to stop highway carnage
By TOBY WALKER
MEMBER for Ballina Don Page has widened the highway debate, proposing an inland route that would turn the Summerland Way into a dual carriageway and provide a second bridge for Grafton.
The State Opposition's roads spokesman criticised piecemeal upgrades of the Pacific Highway, suggesting a long-term planning approach was needed.
Mr Page envisioned a highway that would carry interstate freight traffic over a new river crossing west of Grafton and out into the Junction Hill area.
From there, the highway would travel north along the Summerland Way bypassing Casino and Kyogle and heading north into emerging 'freight hubs' west of Brisbane.
As an alternative to the proposed Pacific Highway upgrades recently released by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), Mr Page said the highway was merely a concept that he was using to gauge public opinion on the contentious issue.
But with the completed improvements to the Pacific Highway possibly a decade away, Mr Page said the idea warranted serious consideration.
With coastal populations expected to rise sharply as baby boomers retire, Mr Page said it made sense to consider a highway that took traffic further inland.
Moreover, he argued that because much of the inland corridor was owned by the State Government, it could be constructed quickly and without the drawn out processes that have hampered the Pacific Highway upgrades.
"No matter what route you choose you always affect people, but this would affect far fewer people than what is currently proposed and certainly would be a much cheaper option," he said.
"(With the Pacific Highway), we're talking about 160 kilometres. The Summerland Way between Casino and Grafton is 100 kilometres. The RTA has done some work on that section and I understand ... that the amount of money that is required to bring that up to dual carriageway standard is nothing like it costs for the Pacific Highway."
The concept, first raised with Mr Page by Lismore MP Thomas George, has not had a costing done, but Mr Page said NRMA director Wendy Machin had offered the resources of her organisation to help with feasibility studies.